Lowcountry Getaway: Palmetto Bluff

Travelers have long felt the tidal pull of the Carolina Lowcountry—especially the quaint resort community of Palmetto Bluff. Residents and visitors agree that there’s no better place for R & R and local culture.

Photography by Bonjwing Lee

Palmetto Bluff, located a mere 25 miles from the Savannah airport, is a true gem on the Carolina coast. Here in the Lowcountry, an authentic community has been intentionally created to coincide with not only the history of the area but also the preservation of the natural landscape. This is the place where the unmistakable scent of pluff mud meets waving inland grasses; where white herons, oysters, and more than a few alligators reside; and where the most deafening “traffic jam” you will hear is the roar of crickets, cicadas, and other coastal insects who clamor after dusk. The pace of life naturally slows and the focus rests outside of one’s self, promising relaxation, restoration, and a whole lot of really great food.

Part hotel, part resort community, Palmetto Bluff always offers something interesting to do. Residents and guests alike enjoy golfing the par-72 course along the May River, embarking on trail rides from Longfield Stables, dominating the sporting clays course, and taking on any number of racquet or water sports along the 32 miles of waterfront. In addition, the monthly artist-in-residence series, conservancy lectures, and outdoor concerts ensure the mind stays as engaged as the body.

There are more than a half-dozen dining options—from casual, grab-and-go to downright elegant—on the Palmetto Bluff property, but if you prefer to create a meal in your home’s kitchen, RT’s Market offers plenty of provisions. For your sweet tooth, hit up the s’mores cart or grab an ice cream at Melt in Wilson Village.

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Bluffton is only a few miles away from Palmetto Bluff and definitely worth a day trip. The Gullah Geechee culture has strong roots and is fascinating to explore. Several Gullah women still shuck oysters at the Bluffton Oyster Company, enjoying a language all their own while keeping their history alive.

Bluffton mayor Lisa Sulka shares her own favorites of this town. “This is a very walkable area, and I love to start in the historic district,” she says. “Be sure to get a cup of coffee at Corner Perk and stroll down to the river to check out the newly upgraded town dock. You’ll also want to visit the Church of the Cross and the Wright Family Park.”

From there, Lisa suggests heading to the Heyward House Welcome Center for a walking tour that shows all of the history that makes Bluffton what it is today. “After lunch at the Cottage, visit our many shops, art galleries, and parks,” she says. “Or rent bikes to travel all over the 54 square miles of Bluffton and visit the Buckwalter Village, which offers a movie theater, several breweries, a bowling alley, and a linear trail.”

Lisa is quick to add that many visitors come to Bluffton for vacation and then find reasons to move here permanently. “We often call it ‘a biggy small town’ because it’s full of big city amenities but small enough to make friends at every turn.”

Patti Callahan Henrys Palmetto Bluff

Birmingham-based, award-winning author Patti Callahan Henry discovered the charm of Palmetto Bluff many years ago, and her family now owns a home there. She recently shared what makes this place so special to her.

What drew you to the area?
My family has been coming to the Lowcountry for 30 years now. My husband, Pat, and I were engaged on Daufuskie Island. When Palmetto Bluff began to be developed, we kept our eyes on it because we knew we wanted to put down roots. We love the area because it is focused on nature, conservation, and the beautiful May River.

What is the first thing you do when you return to Palmetto Bluff?
After I unpack and quickly check on the house, I take our dog Winnie for a walk to the water. It’s the first thing I want to see when I arrive and the last thing I want to see before I leave.

What is a typical day like for you there?
I don’t think there’s a typical day because things change so much with the different seasons. But we usually do get in a long bike ride, as well as dinner on the back porch. Otherwise it may be a day of quiet work and reading or a full day outdoors!

How does this area renew your spirit?
There is a sense of peace and a connection with the outdoors that can’t be duplicated in a busier city. The tides that dramatically shift the landscape and marsh remind me of nature’s rhythms. The sunrises and sunsets, the Spanish moss, and the maritime forest all seem to conspire to create something mystical.

Does the locale influence your writing?
Yes! I often write when I am there, and I have written about the area many times. I’m inspired again and again by the absolute slow-motion way of life. I can easily lose an entire day reading or writing on the screened-in porch, especially if a thunderstorm rolls in.

Favorite Bluffton traditions?
Getting shrimp from the Bluffton Oyster Company and visiting the Bluffton Farmer’s Market. I also love the activities and festivals at Palmetto Bluff, most notably the oyster roasts at Moreland Landing. We spend every major holiday there and gather as much of our family as will fit on couches and blow-up mattresses. My boys would tell you that their favorite traditions are golfing, fishing, and turkey hunting.

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